How to prep your marketing campaign before the holiday season

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Columbus Day isn’t in the same pantheon of shopping holidays as the likes of Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but if brands want to set themselves up for success during the holiday season, they shouldn’t overlook it.

October often marks the start of the holiday marketing season, with brands preparing, testing messaging and experimenting with new tactics. Columbus Day (October 9 this year) offers the last long weekend before Thanksgiving — and the coveted weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday — making it a valuable opportunity for retailers to experiment with their marketing and e-commerce plans in preparation for the bigger spending weekends ahead.

With much anticipation leading up to this year’s holiday season, now is the time to prepare and ensure everything is set to go by integrating these three strategies early on in your campaigns.

1. Fine-tune your email list

The first way to set up your brand for success is by doing a bit of housekeeping on your email list and distribution settings. Is every email address valid? Are you encouraging new customers to subscribe? There are a few ways to guarantee that your email list is prepped and primed for the holiday season.

One of the most effective ways to prepare is to leverage a “list hygiene” provider to cleanse your email systems. There’s nothing worse than sending out a mass email, only to receive 100 bounce-backs, so work with an outside provider to spruce up your email list and understand exactly who you’re reaching with your holiday messaging.

After your email list is scrubbed, seize the opportunity to utilize dynamic opt-in requests through e-receipts or transactional emails to grow your database. By using transactional emails, you know you’re reaching customers who have recently engaged with your brand and are more likely to do so again during the holiday season.

Once your subscription list is built out and updated, take full advantage of the extra time before the Columbus Day weekend to test out different functions — every single button and link should receive some attention.

Remember to draft your email content as well. Finalize subject lines, make sure headlines are drafted and scheduled out, evaluate any embedded surveys or buttons for full functionality, and of course, make sure your emails are being received. Once November hits, you’re going to be too busy in the weeds of holiday marketing to test and address quality assurance, so get this out of the way early to save time and resources later.

2. Test, prep and finesse

Is there a bigger disappointment to a customer than being hyped about a holiday deal announced by their favorite brand, only to discover that the brand’s website crashed as soon as the shopping frenzy began? Now is the time to test your entire marketing and e-commerce stack — from your email distribution service and website to your mobile applications, customer service and shipping options.

Here are five key campaign elements to test and finesse before your holiday retail rollout:

Web content: Evaluate your content management system to ensure it’s well equipped to manage the highly anticipated traffic during peak holiday points. Avoid experiencing a total meltdown just as the sale commences at all costs. Safeguard your website to handle the extreme — and extremely predictable — influx of web traffic.

CRM retargeting: This is the time to focus and segment existing customers and begin deploying advertisements and marketing tactics with the goal of incentivizing shoppers to buy earlier in the season. Utilizing social and search engine platforms like Facebook or Google, you’ll be able to track the habits and records of last year’s buyers to help curate the proper messaging that will speak to them again this year.

Customer service: Customer service should always be considered foundational to the overall campaign, especially during the holidays. Ensure your teams are adequately informed of the “four Ps” of your marketing mix: product, promotion, pricing and placement. This will give them the confidence needed to tackle any customer questions, problems or complaints through the hectic and emotionally driven period.

Journeys: If you have any email journeys in place — welcome, abandoned cart, post-purchase and so on — now is a great time for 50/50 split tests. Use two varying subject lines, hero images, calls to action and more to see what resonates most. The high increase in traffic should give you the necessary information to optimize those journeys moving forward throughout the rest of the year.

Influencers: One of the most popular marketing strategies is the use of influencers, especially in the social space. Influencers provide validation of your products and use their extensive fan bases to extend your brand’s reach. Because influencers are so popular, many are already entering into partnerships for the holiday season. Don’t delay in researching and extending contracts, while also determining your content strategy with them.

3. The art of the acquisition

It’s time to acquire new customers and funnel them into your holiday sale zone, and lookalike targeting will be your key to success. Lookalike targeting is the opportunity to identify shoppers with similar buying characteristics to your usual shoppers, and to heighten the awareness of your brand while acquiring new spenders.

Taking full advantage of this group allows a retailer to test its messaging with those who are very similar to its consistent buyers, delivering an accurate evaluation of the brand’s marketing campaign, while avoiding any loss of its consistent base. And if those lookalikes like your message, it’s a win-win.

A few considerations to bear in mind during your acquisition period include running multiple lookalike audience campaigns based on a few segments of your database (think of your best customers over the last year, not just the holidays), developing customer segments based on last year’s holiday purchases, and more. You’ll want to get started on this segmentation work now, so you can begin to ramp up messaging to those early-bird consumers as soon as Columbus Day.

Today’s consumer need for instant gratification means it’s more important than ever for brands to hone their holiday marketing campaign strategies.

There’s no better time than now to make sure your email lists are up to date and that tests of all the variables of your e-commerce and marketing stack are well underway. Ramp up your retargeting tactics to funnel in brand-new shoppers, and get ready for a successful shopping season.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.




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